© Stephen E. Jones
Dimensions of the Shroud
Introduction. This entry is based on my old Encyclopedia's entry of the same name, recast in my new Encyclopedia format (see Index). As we saw in the previous entries, "Shroud of Turin and "Linen sheet," the Shroud's lineal dimensions are 437 cms long by 111 cms wide (~4.4 m x 1.1 m or ~14.3 x ~3.6 ft).
Dimensions determined. Prior to 1998, the most commonly cited dimensions of the Shroud were 14 feet 3 inches long by 3 feet 7 inches wide (434.3 x 109.2 cms). In 1998 ancient textiles specialist Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg determined that the true dimensions of
[Right: Mechthild Flury Lemberg (L), Sister Maria Clara Antonini of the Poor Clare nuns (C) and Turin diocese's Don Giuseppe Ghiberti (R) preparing the Shroud for the 1998 exposition.]
the Shroud are "437 cm long by 111 cm wide" (about 14 feet 4 inches by 3 feet 8 inches). This was after she, to prepare the Shroud for the 1998 exposition, removed the Shroud's blue satin protective hem which had been sewn onto the cloth by Princess Clotilde of Savoy in 1868.
The thickness of the cloth is about one third of a millimetre (0.343 mm), slightly thicker than shirt cloth, and its weight is approximately 2.45 kgs (about 5½ lbs).
Missing pieces. There are two pieces missing at each end of the 8 cms (3½ inch) sidestrip (see right). The first is 14 x 8 cms (5½ by 3½ inches) at the front left feet end and the second is 36 x 8 cm (14 by 3½ inches) at the back left feet end. However, as can be seen [right] the missing pieces do not change the overall length or width of the Shroud.
Cubits. In August 1989, an expert in early Syriac, Ian Dickinson, from Canterbury, England, reflected on the Shroud's then commonly accepted measurements of 14 feet 3 inches by 3 feet 7 inches. They seemed odd to him by modern standards but he wondered what they would be if the Shroud was measured in 1st century AD Jerusalem, by the cubit.
There were various cubits in use in Jesus' time, including one for use in the Jerusalem Temple. There was also a cubit of the market place, known as the Assyrian cubit, which was the one most widely one used, being the international standard of that time for merchants of the Near East. This common cubit of commerce was carried along with the Assyrian language, Aramaic, which was the common language of trade and diplomacy from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea, and had become the language of the Jew (Jn 5:2; 19:13,17,20; 20:16), which Jesus spoke (Acts 26:14 NIV).
Petrie & Oppert. During the 19th century the archaeological pioneer, Sir Flinders Petrie (1853–1942) and Assyriologist Julius Oppert (1825–1905), took many measurements of ancient buildings in Babylon
[Above: Page 67 of "Inductive Metrology: Or, The Recovery of Ancient Measures from the Monuments," by William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1877), showing the Assyrian cubit was 21.6 inches (~54.9 cms).]
(which Assyria had annexed in the 9th century BC). Petrie and Oppert found the length of the Assyrian cubit to be almost 21.5 inches, since refined by other archaeologists to be 21.6 ±0.2 inches (54.9 ±0.5 cms). In fact according to page 67 of Petrie's book above, he himself accepted 21.60 inches as the mean length of the Assyrian cubit.The Shroud measures 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits. Dickinson found that this Assyrian cubit is what the Shroud conforms to, taking the lower limit of 21.4 inches (54.4 cms):
|21.4 inches x 8||=||171.2 inches|
|Shroud recorded length||=||171.0 inches|
|21.4 inches x 2||=||42.8 inches|
|Shroud recorded width||=||43.0 inches|
Now 171.2 inches is 434.8 cms, and 43.0 inches is 109.2 cms, which are very close to the Shroud's 437 cms by 111 cms. Indeed, those latest, most accurate dimensions of the Shroud are even closer to the Assyrian cubit's middle value of 21.6 inches or 54.9 cms. Dividing 437 and 111 cms by 54.9 cms equals 8 (7.96) cubits and 2 (2.02) cubits, respectively!
[Above (click to enlarge): Shroud photo with 8 x 2 grid overlay showing (within the limitations of my Windows 7 software and artistic ability!) that the Shroud divides evenly into 8 squares, each 437/8 = ~54.6 cm (~21.5 in.) x 111/8 = ~55.5 cm (~21.8 in.). And as we shall see next, the length of each square, ~54.6 cm. or ~21.5 in., is only 0.3 cm. or 0.1 in. less than the standard Assyrian cubit of ~54.9 cm or ~21.6 in. And the width of each square is only ~0.6 cm. or ~0.2 in. more than that Assyrian cubit. But the width of the Shroud has probably been increased slightly more than 2 cubits by the cutting and rejoining of the sidestrip.]
Guralnick. Archaeologist Eleanor Guralnick (c.1930-2012) claimed that from measuring slabs and figures from ancient Assyrian capitals Khorsabad and Nineveh in Iraq, which were built during the reigns of Assyrian kings Sargon II (r. 721–705 BC), Sennacherib (r. 705 – 681 BC), and Ashurbanipal (r. 668–627 BC), she derived new standard lengths of three different cubits from the Late Assyrian period. They were, the Standard Cubit (51.5 cms), a Big Cubit (56.6 cms), and a "Cubit of the King" (55 cms). Despite Guralnick's standard cubits having been derived from a smaller sample set than Oppert/Petries', what Guralnick called the "Cubit of the King" (55 cms) appears to be Oppert/Petrie's "Assyrian Cubit" (54.9 cms), as highlighted in the table below.
[Above: Comparison of Oppert/Petrie's and Guralnick's three Assyrian cubits in relation to the dimensions of the Shroud of Turin. As can be seen, Guralnick's "Cubit of the King" (55 cms) is very close to Oppert/Petrie's "Assyrian Cubit" (54.9 cms), and the 437 cms long by 111 cms wide dimensions of the Shroud equal 8 by 2 of those cubits of Guralnick and Oppert/Petrie.].
Four-doubled (Gk. tetradiplon). Moreover, as Ian Wilson has pointed out, "Such conformity to an exact 8 by 2 Jewish cubits ... correlates perfectly with the `doubled in four' [Greek tetradiplon] arrangement by which we hypothesized the shroud to have been once folded and mounted as the `holy face' of Edessa [see below], for the exposed facial area of this latter would have been an exact 1 by 2 Jewish cubits".
[Above (click to enlarge): Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin illustrated: The full-length Shroud of Turin (1), is doubled four times (2 through 5), resulting in Jesus' face within a rectangle, in landscape aspect (5), exactly as depicted in the earliest copies of the Image of Edessa, the 11th century Sakli church, Turkey (6) and the 10th century icon of King Abgar V of Edessa holding the Image of Edessa, St. Catherine's monastery, Sinai (7)..]
Problems of the forgery theory §1 The Bible mentions cubits (Gn 6:16; Ex 25:10; Mt 6:27, etc) but does not say how long they were. So it is highly unlikely that a medieval forger would even know about the Assyrian standard cubit (as it was discovered by Petrie and Oppert in the 19th century), let alone how long it was. And even if the hypothetical forger did know about the Assyrian standard cubit and even how long it was, it is even more unlikely that he would bother obtaining a first century Syrian or Palestinian fine linen sheet of those dimensions, when his contemporaries would not appreciate his diligence, and they would be satisfied with far less. And that is assuming that a medieval forger could obtain an 8 by 2 cubit first-century Syrian-Palestinian fine linen sheet, of which there are no other surviving examples, let alone one with the Shroud's three-to-one herringbone twill weave. I will add this to problem of the forgery theory §1.
Conclusion. So together with the image of the AD 29-32 Pontius Pilate lepton over the right eye of the Man on the Shroud; and the stiching and selvedge found only at the first-century Jewish fortress of Masada, this 8 by 2 Assyrian cubits dimensions of the Shroud are three separate and independent items of evidence that the Shroud of Turin is first-century and therefore authentic!
1. Photo originally in Brkic, B., 2010, "Hitler had designs on the Shroud of Turin; Indiana Jones fans are not surprised," Daily Maverick, 8 April. [return]
2. Wilson, I., 2000a, "`The Turin Shroud - past, present and future', Turin, 2-5 March, 2000 - probably the best-ever Shroud Symposium," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 51, June. [return]
3. Shroud Scope, "Durante 2002, Horizontal" (rotated vertical). [return]
4. Dickinson, I., 1990, "The Shroud and the Cubit Measure," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, Issue 24, January, pp.8-11, p.8. [return]
5. Ibid. [return]
6. Petrie, W.M.F., 1877, "Inductive Metrology: Or, The Recovery of Ancient Measures from the Monuments," Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, Reprinted, 2013. Google books. [return]
7. Dickinson, 1990, p.10. [return]
8. Ibid. [return]
9. Ibid. [return
10. Guralnick, E., 1996, "Sargonid Sculpture and the Late Assyrian Cubit," Iraq, Vol. 58, pp.89-103, p.89. [return]
11. Ibid. [return]
12. Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.181. [return]
13. Jones, S.E., 2012, "Tetradiplon and the Shroud of Turin," The Shroud of Turin blog, September 15. [return]
• Cassanelli, A., 2002, "The Holy Shroud," Williams, B., transl., Gracewing: Leominster UK, p.15.
• Currer-Briggs, N., 1995, "Shroud Mafia: The Creation of a Relic?," Book Guild: Sussex UK, p.11.
• Iannone, J.C., 1998, "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence," St Pauls: Staten Island NY, pp.1-2.
• Petrosillo, O. & Marinelli, E., 1996, "The Enigma of the Shroud: A Challenge to Science," Scerri, L.J., transl., Publishers Enterprises Group: Malta, p.161.
• Schwalbe, L.A. & Rogers, R.N., 1982, "Physics and Chemistry of the Shroud of Turin: Summary of the 1978 Investigation," Reprinted from Analytica Chimica Acta, Vol. 135, No. 1, 1982, pp.3-49, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co: Amsterdam, 1982, p.43.
• Whiting, B., 2006, "The Shroud Story," Harbour Publishing: Strathfield NSW, Australia, p.177.
• Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, pp.18, 68.
• Wilson, I., 1979, "The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Jesus?," , Image Books: New York NY, Revised edition, p.21.
• Wilson, I., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, pp.112-113.
• Wilson, I., 1986, "The Evidence of the Shroud," Guild Publishing: London, pp.112-113.
• Wilson, I., 1990, "Recent Publications," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 26, September/October, pp.14-16.
• Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, pp.141-142, 181.
• Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, , pp.59-60, 64, 67, 69, 152.
• Wilson, I., 2000b, "Recent Publications," British Society for the Turin Shroud Newsletter, No. 51, June.
• Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, pp.74-75, 140-141.
Created: 4 February 2015. Updated: 8 December 2015.